Controversial Book on Amazon Sparks Intense Consumer Debate

Posted: March 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

Today is Veteran’s Day, a day when we take a collective moment to remember, celebrate, and commemorate the brave soldiers who fight in our stead to protect the freedoms that come with being an American. Ironically, today also happened to include an intense consumer debate as to what those freedoms actually mean. Amazon.com, the largest online-only retailer in the entire world, featured a book on its website today with a “Very Controversial Title.” The book was written by Phillip R. Greaves II, and it gained a lot of, um, attention once it was introduced.

Consumers were understandably outraged, and took to popular social media vehicles to flex their collective power. Twitter (when it wasn’t “Over Capacity,” as it is far too often) was blown up with activity. A special hash tag was actually created with the name “#boycottamazon,” and at the time of this writing had far too much activity to quantify. As one user said, “Just found new place to buy daughter’s laptop case instead of @Amazon. They have free speech. I have free enterprise. #boycottamazon” It seemed that most users agreed they would boycott the company until the book was taken down. What should frighten Amazon are the potentially influential consumers who were not satisfied with the simple removal of the product. As one woman vented, “Yeah, their response was slow and weak. Still going to boycott. Would love for them to feel it this holiday season. #boycottamazon.”

AmazonPerhaps most startling is that Amazon originally stood by its decision to sell the book. “Amazon believes it is censorship to not sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable,” spokesman Drew Herdener explained in an e-mail, in response to inquiries from CNBC.[i] The company has since rethought its position, and removed any traces of the book from its website, however at this point they have not otherwise responded to the outrage that was unleashed by the book’s presence on their site. They say that ‘All publicity is good publicity,” but ‘they’ are wrong in this case. Really Amazon? You didn’t see this coming? Maybe if Barnes & Noble.com had this slip up I could understand. But Amazon is an online-only retailer, and it is about time they start understanding the space that they occupy. People were so put off by this experience that they felt the need to share it with EVERYONE, in several different channels. And @Amazon, the Amazon official Twitter page, follows a mere 23 people, so it is entirely conceivable that they weren’t aware of the negative dialogue flooding the popular online community until it was far too late.

This isn’t the first time Amazon has faced criticism either. Most notably, in 2002 (Before the power of social networks had been realized), Amazon came under fire for selling another very controversial title. (Which is still for sale under Amazon.) I’m all for protecting our freedom, but this is absurd. Get it together Amazon, you need to fix this, and quickly. I don’t need to remind you of what important time of the year is fast approaching for the retail sector. What do you all think? What should Amazon do to quell the intense anger that now exists towards its brand?

ORIGINAL POST: Nov 11, 2010 on InsightIQ

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